Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A beat-up on smacking

The Herald breathlessly reports that both sides of the anti-smacking debate are flouting the referendum spending-limit by "disowning" their allies:

Larry Baldock, the Kiwi Party leader who initiated the petitions to hold the referendum, said yesterday his $50,000 radio advertising campaign for a "No" vote was not part of the official "Vote No" campaign.

"I haven't been promoting the 'Vote No' site or the 'Vote No' coalition," he said.

And Green MP Sue Bradford, whose bill banning the use of physical force for correction sparked Mr Baldock's petitions, said a party leaflet on "Why we're voting yes" was nothing to do with the "Yes Vote" campaign.

"We are not part of that coalition," she said.

"When we did our recent Green Party leaflet on the topic, we were very careful to keep the 'Yes Vote' off it."

Both sides appear to be deliberately risking the $20,000 maximum fine for breaching the $50,000 limit on each side of the campaign around a citizen-initiated referendum, which covers the full year up to the close of voting on Friday.

The Herald's problem of course is that it insists on framing the issue as being about "sides". But the law does not regulate "sides" in a referendum, for pretty obvious reasons. It regulates persons, which means natural persons (like me) and legal persons (like Family First). And provided everyone sticks a promoter statement on their advertising during the 21-day voting period and submits a return, then they are entitled to spend up to $50,000 each. There's no suggestion that Baldock or the Greens are failing to do this, and so no suggestion they are breaking the law. The Herald's story is simply a beat-up.